Randy Yohe Published

Investigations Into State Agency Spending Expected To Continue

Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, holds a pen at the long table in the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee as Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, is blurred in the background.
Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, chairs the Finance Committee.
Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senate Finance Committee Chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, said to expect more indictments like the one last week involving a DHHR manager and COVID-19 testing.

Department of Health and Human Resources Supervisor Tim Priddy faces federal charges of lying to the FBI and false statements before a grand jury regarding the accounting of $34 million in COVID-19 tests and supplies.  

An investigation uncovered multiple invoices submitted by one out-of-state vendor not named in the indictment (Company A) totaling approximately $44.7 million for more than 500,000 COVID-19 test kits. But only 50,000 of those test results were reported between October 2020 and March 2022. 

Tarr said the Priddy indictment stems from his committee’s investigation into state COVID-19 testing and funding. He said decisions around taxpayer money within state agencies lack accountability and responsibility to the people.

“We have about 800,000 income taxpayers in West Virginia,” Tarr said. “That equals out to $40 per person. Send their money back. It’s just disgusting to see this happen again and again.”

During a media briefing last week, Gov. Jim Justice was asked about Priddy’s indictment. He said the pandemic had created confusion throughout the country and West Virginia state agencies.

“To say it was not a challenging time, I mean for crying out loud, it was tough stuff,” Justice said. “And Tim Priddy is suspended from the DHHR at this time and we will have to let the court decide on his fate, that’s for sure.”

Tarr said the Inspector General in Washington, D.C. is still investigating COVID-19 spending directly related to the governor’s gifts and charities funds.

“Things that happened around the Babydog Sweepstakes and things that happened around the Department of Corrections,” Tarr said. ”Monies that should have gone to the Department of Corrections, relative to their COVID expenses, instead went to the governor’s gifts and charity spots.”  

In a March 2023 emailed statement from the governor’s office regarding the governor’s gifts and charities funds, Press Secretary C.J. Harvey said, “This is simply a regurgitation of old news. Unfortunately, Senator Tarr can’t let it go. The Governor’s Office firmly believes that all transactions involving the use of CARES Act funds were legal and appropriate. Decisions on the use of funds were made with the advice of legal counsel and two national CPA firms, including one who completed an independent audit and found no issues.”

Tarr said the Senate Finance Committee is still actively looking into a number of administration and state agency spending issues.

“There are investigations that are still out there,” Tarr said. “As they go forward, you’re going to see more and more of these types of indictments.”